Pakistani students seeking UK student visas have been singled out for a new language tests after border checks suggested that as many as 40 per cent of them had falsified their application forms.
A new Home Office ‘pilot scheme’, introduced amid fears that thousands of bogus applicants were getting student visas, has sharply increased the number of applications being rejected, The Telegraph reports.
Under previous pre-tier 4 immigration rules, applicants for student visas had their ability to speak English assessed mainly on the basis of their written application form.
Every year, around 10,000 visas are granted to students from Pakistan.
Following a sharp rise in the number of Pakistani applications, ministers ordered an increase in the number of applicants facing a “credibility test”, a face-to-face interview with British officials.
The Tier 4 points based student visa system, introduced under the previous Labour Government in order to streamline the process, has until recently been paper-based, so candidates only have to fill out application forms without any personal contact with officials.
About 20 per cent of candidates are already rejected on the basis of the paper forms, mostly with suspected poor English skills.
An increase in face-to-face interviews on visa candidates in Pakistan found an additional 20 per cent do not have the grasp of English they appeared to have on their application forms, raising the overall rejection rate to around 40 per cent.
Further preliminary tests appear to show that the sit-down interviews with an officer can weed out bogus applications from 38 per cent of students applying in Bangladesh, 27 per cent from Sri Lanka, 29 per cent from India and 28 per cent from Egypt.
The major cause of these rejections has been poor English, with a large number requiring an interpreter to get through the test.
Following the results, the Home Office will now demand more applicants are interviewed in these countries, with 100 per cent of candidates from Pakistan subject to the new strict tests.
A Government source said: “Britain is open for business to the best and the brightest. But our message to bogus students is clear. You will be found out and you will be stopped from coming.”
The revelation follows a deeply critical study by the National Audit Office last month, in which it was claimed that 50,000 students abused visa system. This study found a huge surge in students entering the country was largely fuelled by fake applications after the new points based visa system was introduced in 2009 by the Labour government.
It estimated the UK Border Agency probably let through 40,000 to 50,000 illegal students in this year, largely from India, Bangladesh and China. Most of these people have never been traced.
The number of illegal immigrants who pretended to be in education is more than ten times higher than the previous estimates.
Immigration officials took measures to tighten the system up by increasing checks on colleges and applicants, but the National Audit Office found its controls are still lacking. Source: The Telegraph.
Overseas students are paying millions in taxes to the UK goverments and are estimated to be worth £5 billion to the British economy.
Under the old student visa system, replaced in 2009 when the UK Border Agency’s flagship points based system (PBS) was launched, most students were interviewed or checked by a locally based Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) who had the power to decide whether or not the applicant should be granted entry clearance to the UK.
At the time ECO’s were accused of being ‘over enthusiastic’ or inconsistent with their refusals and thousands of decisions were overturned on appeal before immigration judges at the AIT (now known as the First Tier Tribunal).
UK Universities demanded more consistency and the government responded by stripping ECO’s of their powers when PBS was implemented in 2009. Much to their dismay, ECO’s were no longer able to refuse applicants, even where foul play was suspected or the student had previously been refused a visit or student visa.
Tier 4 student visas were granted on the basis of a simple points score, part of which came from a visa letter from a Tier 4 sponsoring educational provider and the remainder from proof of funds in a bank account, even if the money has only appeared a few days earlier and clearly came from a bank loan. Previously students would be refused if the money had suddenly appeared in their account or had been borrowed.
UK Visa postings were also reduced under a ‘hub and spoke’ idea whereby visa applications were processed in centralised units rather than in the country of origin. For instance, visas applied for by Pakistani students were processed by staff based in Dubai.
Following the launch of Tier 4, which was carried out in stages before systems were fully in place, the number of students arriving in the UK went up dramatically, however, the quality of student seemed to go down.
Colleges, which had to undergo a rigorous application process to obtain a Tier 4 sponsors licence, were increasingly finding that students were arriving in the UK with little or no money, despite having obtained a student visa having ‘proved’ available funds to pay for their course and living expenses.
Many of these Tier 4 students absconded without studying or paying the balance of fees owed upon arrival in the UK. Colleges duly reported these bogus students to the UK Border Agency.
Thousands of student debtors are being sued in the County Courts by colleges and universities for unpaid fees.
Where a student is successfully sued a County Court Judgment (CCJ) will be registered against them. The CCJ will stay on their credit file for up to six years and effectively ruin their credit rating.
Students who ignore CCJ’s may not realise that these court or ‘civil actions’ must be declared on most immigration application forms and could affect their chances of obtaining a visa renewal or further leave to remain in the UK.
With this new pilot project, the Home Office is going ‘back to basics’ by reintroducing checks by human beings in a locally based British Embassy where vital local knowledge comes into play.
The old student visa system had its faults and needed modernising, but the reforms obviously went too far too fast.
Ironically, government reforms to streamline the student system and help educational providers have had the opposite effect on private colleges. Due to high numbers of students arriving in the UK, the border agency has cracked down on private colleges and brought in a raft of changes to the student visa Immigration Rules making it extremely difficult to attract and recruit non-EU students. The UK economy is now losing billions of pounds in revenue as international students flock to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
College owners may wish they could return to the ‘good old days’ when up to 50% of their prospective students had their visas rejected and the subsequent battles with ECO’s. At least they were not held directly responsible, as sponsors, for the students who obtained their visas and arrived in the UK.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email:
You could qualify for a tax refund if you are an overseas student, work permit holder, Tier 1, Yellow or Blue Card holder – in fact any visa type – even if you are no longer legal or even in the UK!
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org